Critics frequently charge charter schools with diverting funding away from traditional public schools. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles' teachers union released a report attempting to quantify exactly how much money the district has lost.
Their estimate: students choosing to enroll in charter schools instead of L.A. Unified schools cost the district $508.2 million in net revenues, according to a report commissioned by the union, United Teachers Los Angeles.
Add in other losses — from structural problems in state funding, from oversight costs not covered by fees charter schools pay, from charter-induced administrative overhead — and the report estimates charters are costing L.A. Unified more than $591.7 million.
"A half a billion dollars of costs for any item creates a fiscal crisis," said UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl. "The district has to lobby at the state level and change some policies and practices here at the district level to contain that."
From the dais at Tuesday's meeting of the L.A. Unified School Board, Superintendent Michelle King said district staff needed time to review the report before responding.
The California Charter Schools Association said the report was politically motivated.
"It is not a comprehensive analysis of the district’s financial challenges," said the CCSA's Sarah Angell in an e-mailed statement. "It is the latest campaign in UTLA’s relentless war on charter schools. UTLA has made no qualms about its opposition to the existence of charters – except the ones they’re able to unionize."
The report, conducted by MGT of America and commissioned by the union and the research group In The Public Interest, said more than 102,000 students' decision to enroll in charter schools as the biggest cost to L.A. Unified.
It also pointed out the L.A. Unified Charter Schools Division's $11.7 million budget exceeds the approximately $8.8 million in fees charter schools pay to the district to cover oversight costs.
The report also noted a state policy that allows school districts with declining enrollments to be funded based on their previous year's attendance — it's known as "soft landing" funding. But the district receives less "soft landing" funding if the students leaving traditional district schools for a charter school. That state policy, the report estimated, costs L.A. Unified more than $55.6 million.